Camino Trip Notes: Stage 11 (Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Distance: 24.1 km

9:20 – I’ve spent the last two nights in Santo Domingo de la Calzada’s historic Parador and I’m not apologizing for it! I felt like a hot bath and the Parador was the only joint in town with a bathtub so the Parador it was. The front desk clerk is currently processing my credit card and it looks like she has given me a 30% “Pilgrim’s Discount” and another 30% off the Sunday rate. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed at a hotel of this caliber and paid about half what I was expecting!

9:30 – I’m standing on the street and far enough from the Parador that they won’t see me if they suddenly realize there’ been some kind of mistake with the bill. As far as I can tell, they were just very generous with the discounts. 

9:45 – The pilgrim route out of Santo Domingo de la Calzada takes you across a bridge that was originally built by St. Dominic. The River Oja looks pretty tame today but I imagine that it runs a bit faster when the snow melts on the mountains that are visible in the distance.

11:13 – I’ve only seen one pig in Spain – and it was on a leash – yet every restaurant has pork on the menu. If the evidence presented to me just downwind from here is correct, I may have just passed a barn containing the country’s entire supply of porkers. The barn was about a half kilometre off the trail but there was no question what it housed.

11:20 – After a long, slow climb, my first stop for today is the small town of Granon. I can generally find something to see, do or look at in any small town, but this one is a stretch. The very ordinary looking Church of San Juan Bautista is said to have a baptismal font that dates from 1099 but the church is closed when I pass. After all, it is 40 minutes to siesta time, so a pre-siesta break is clearly in order. 

12:40 – If I understand the sign correctly, I just left La Rioja and have entered Castilla. I think. I’ve been walking beside a major highway for the last 15 minutes and it looks like this will be the case for the next few hours. At least it’s flat or even downhill for the rest of the day.  The scenery from the shoulder of the N-120 isn’t very interesting so I pull out my earbuds and listen to some podcasts for the first time on the Camino. I’m currently on Episode 6 of CBC’s Someone Knows Something. After this episode, I’ll switch back to Under The Influence.  If you haven’t heard these two podcasts, consider them highly recommended. 

14:15 – I take back everything about Granon being a ghost town. Redecilla del Camino is quaint but it’s not clear if anyone actually lives here.  No stores were open.  No cars or pedestrians were on the streets.  I saw one old man fiddling with a lock but even he may have been a ‘plant’ as he never did get the door unlocked.

16:30 – I’m approaching Belorado and very happy to see it. There are several Albergues in town and one is said to be much better than the other, I just can’t remember which is which.  

16:50 – I’ll take my chances with the Albergue de Santa Maria. It’s attached to the church and just a block from the local bar. I think I’ve got all bases covered.

17:10 – The volunteer ‘hospitalero’ who checked me in and showed me around is from Switzerland. When I asked where, she said: “Oh, you wouldn’t know it, just a small town in the Emmental Valley.” As I had just spent a few weeks in the area, and know many of the valley towns by name, I asked if it was “Steffisburg, Eggiwil, Thun or Signau.” She was amazed that a guy with a Canadian passport would know one town in the Emmental, let alone four or five. She never did mention which town she was from but it’s apparently very close to Eggiwil, the town that my ancestors left in 1670 and which I spent a few days exploring just before starting the Camino.

20:00 – I read the Globe & Mail on my iPhone while eating dinner at the local bar. One of the articles that I read was about the Canadian government ordering a complete review of the Broadcast Act. The author speculated that the country’s decades-old ‘CanCon’ requirements may finally be dropped, which could potentially be the death-knell for dozens of Canadian produced TV shows. And what was playing on the TV above the bar in Belorado, Spain? A reality TV show called Control de Adunas. It was produced in Canada by Shaw and gave the viewer a behind-the-scenes look at what Canada Customs agents are looking for when they scan your luggage, stamp your passport or interview you at the Peace Bridge. Most of the scenes were shot at Toronto’s Pearson International, Vancouver International, and the US border crossing at Surrey, BC. The voices of the agents had been dubbed into Spanish and surprisingly, most of the old men in the bar were paying attention! 

21:30 – The old stone rectory at the church of Santa Maria is damp and freezing! Thankfully they have plenty of thick wooden blankets and the Swiss hospitalero serves herbal tea before bed. This is the kind of place I’ll gladly pay 5€ to sleep in even if it is dark and clammy and I’m unlikely to get a 50% discount in the morning.

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